SAN DIEGO – Despite being in a severe drought, San Diego County’s agriculture industry is not only surviving, but it’s thriving.
The value of the region’s agriculture industry last year was $1.85 billion, according to an annual report released Wednesday by San Diego County officials.
The figure is 6 percent more than the $1.75 billion valuation from 2012. The report said the most valuable crop, for the fifth year in a row, was ornamental trees and shrubs. The crop was estimated to be worth $387 million in 2012.
Avocado and wine grapes also did well but the San Diego region continues to lead the nation in producing garden bedding, foliage and potted plants.
“We are producing more with less and we are doing a very good job at it,” said Julie Walker, the San Diego County Farm Bureau President.
California’s severe drought has dried up many of the state’s farms, particularly in the Central Valley, but most growers in San Diego region are managing to survive, according to Vince Acosta with the county’s agriculture department.
“Putting in practices like better irrigation systems, more efficient water system, cutting back on water when they have to in certain areas,” said Acosta.
Many local farmers are also switching toward more drought tolerance crops like the grape.
“Why not? If we can grow it, we can drink it,” said Costa. Ramona currently has 20 tasting rooms, and the county is working to make it easier for a bigger wine industry to flourish.
“It’s a very high dollar crop and now with county relaxing its boutique winery ordinances where they are allowing tasting rooms, it is making it more appealing to people,” said Acosta.
The county is currently home to 200 crops on 5,700 farms, changes to boost sales for them are also coming, said county officials.
“Were making changes where they can have more than one farmers market during the week instead of once a week. We’re trying to increase that farm to table, local growth,” said Acosta.
More than 300,000 acres in San Diego County are devoted to agriculture, which is the fourth largest local industry.
Results from farmers dealing with the drought in 2014 will be counted toward next year’s report.